A Mathematics Class

I have never been any good at maths, I even failed my maths GCSE at school…twice in fact. I had to re-sit my exams while at college to try and get the C all the teachers tell you that you must have to succeed in life, but alas only got another D so in the end I gave up.

I used to think that if you find things particularly difficult you should work on them until you find them easy, I now think that is a waste of your energy and if it is something you don’t enjoy anyway you should just accept that you’re crap at it and focus on other things.

Thats what I have done with maths. So now I have a great accountant that does my tax returns and keeps my accounts in check. I use the sum tool in excel to set budgets and keep track of my expenditure. I have a calculator on my phone, and hey if all else fails I use my fingers or scribble sums down until I get it right. In all honesty mathematics doesn’t feature much in my life anyway, so I manage OK.

But there is one area where recently my confusion around numbers has started to creep into my life a little.

Running PACE

In the running world everyone is obsessed with PACE, well not everyone but a lot of people. It isn’t rely helpful to use slow, slower and slowest as your pace markers when discussing how you did with colleagues. And once you start running regularly you do want to see how you are improving and start setting time based goals, so what is a girl to do if she gets all in a fizz with minute miles, and kilometres per minute formulas – it just all becomes a little difficult.

For example I couldn’t tell you what my current running pace is. I can tell you my PB for a 5k is 32 minutes, I have a 1.06 PB for a 10K (Circa 2008), 2 hours 37 for a half and 5.50.37 for a marathon. But each of those PBs were achieved at different stages of my life and subsequent fitness…so I never really know what a reasonable goal is when it comes to predicting an achievable finish time.

This evenings session at track forced me to address this with a session called 800 yasso. Our coach Grant announced that we would be doing this and that we should think about our marathon goal time in advance of our session, and to bring something to use as a timer with a minute and second hand. I asked my 14 year old nephew if he knew what a yasso was, he answered “erm…ain’t it like a greek guitar?”

Yasso is actually named after a dude called Bart Yasso who came up with a way of training to achieve a specific time for any given race. The basic premise is that if you want to be able to run a 4 hour marathon,  you need to be able to consistantly run a succession of 800meter reps in 4 minutes, a 5 hour marathon, 5 minutes and so on. That made perfect sense to me, so all I had to do was hit those times.

I have a place now for the Brighton Marathon which is on the 6th April so I have been thinking a bit about what time I would like to complete it in. I ran the London in 2012 in 5.50.37 and on reflection I felt like I could have gone faster. I had originally predicted a finish time of 7 hours so was placed in the last pen to start with all the walkers and big costumed runners (not a smart move if you do actually want to run) I spent the first 2 miles dodging people and trying to settle into my stride. What a waste of energy. I also wasted quite a bit of time on unnecessary loo stops…but anyway, I figure with some decent training I should be able to get close to 5 hours. I mean I felt strong in London running the first 16 miles in good time without stopping, and then run walking the next few miles before a final steady dash from mile 19 all the way home.

But anyway, back to this evenings session which went like this. A 2 lap warm up, then 800m within marathon target time followed by a 200 meter recovery before embarking on another set of 800m, then 200 recovery, and so on and so forth until basically you run out of steam and missed your time target. So with my marathon target time of 5 hours I set off in the cold and rain to run my first 800, I had no idea how fast to run so just went full out, I hit 5 minutes almost to the second. The 200 meter recovery block was very welcome. On my second set I managed to do the 800 in 5 minutes 19 seconds, and my recovery was almost at walking pace just to try and bring my heart rate down which was peaking at 245. By the 3rd set I knew I was starting to struggle, and despite giving it my all I came in at 5.23 or something close to that, so I resigned myself to a last 200 meter recovery and called it a night.

Despite only managing 3 sets within a reasonable variation from my set pace I felt ok about the session as I knew I had worked really hard and for the first time ever I actually understood what it felt like to run at that 5hour marathon pace, and although I am a little off that pace I know with my training programme my stamina and speed will improve so that time is still achievable.


It was only really when I got home and uploaded my run onto Garmin connect that I realised just how fast I had been running. My Garmin was a gift to myself after running the marathon in 2012, however I found out I was pregnant very soon after so never really got to use it so my records go from the Spring 2013 and within that time I have never run consistently at the pace I did tonight.

You can see from the graphic here, my average pace over the 4 kilometres was 10.40, but I also recorded a 7.15 minute mile pace at one point too.

It was only a 26 minute workout, but it feels like the first time in ages that I have really pushed myself and am now feeling quite positive about the next few months training.

My mathematics and understanding of pace formulas is never going to be great, but at least I can work out how to run a 5 hour marathon now.

Oh on a different note – today marks the start of Jantastic. So far I have a team of 30, 11 of whom have logged runs today.


3 Responses to “A Mathematics Class”
  1. You sound like you know what you’re doing…..who needs maths anyway!

  2. mariekeates says:

    Maths! Mmm I’m in your camp when it comes to numbers they hurt my head 🙂

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